Saturday, January 19, 2008

Here be angels ...

In the two, almost three, weeks since Doodlebug died, I've had two interesting experiences. The first was a few Sundays ago. I was sitting in my chair in the living room, peacefully knitting a sock for my youngest granddaughter. That particular Sunday was a sunny day, and since my windows face south, I had the blinds closed to block out some of the glare. Something caught my eye and I glanced up to see a play of shadow and light on the ceiling. The precise angle of the blinds and the position of the sun, along with the way the breeze was blowing the tall bushes outside the window—all of these things combined to make the word "Hapy" out of light and shadow on my ceiling. I wanted to get my camera, but I was totally enchanted with this phenomenon, and I couldn't move. After a few minutes, the sun moved slightly and the word blurred and faded away. I found that I had tears running down my face. Even thought the word wasn't spelled correctly, I knew what it was and it made me happy in the core of my being.

The second experience was a week ago on the way to work. One of the roads I take runs next to a school, and there are five speed bumps along the way with a speed limit of 25. You have to drive slowly on this road. As I neared the end of it and was driving over the last speed bump, I saw a beautiful brown/tan husky walking on the sidewalk next to the road. I slowed down to a crawl, because you just never know what an unleashed dog will do. As it turns out, the dog came over to my car, put his/her paws up on the passenger door and smiled at me through the window—smiling in the way only a husky can do. He/she delicately dropped back down the grown and proceeded across the street in front of the cars stopped in the other direction.

I'd like to think Doodlebug had something to do with both of these incidents. The breed of dog that smiled at me is totally significant because when we first moved to Indiana, Doodlebug wiggled out of his collar on one of our walks and instigated a fight with a husky. The husky ended up picking him up and tossing him aside (he was fine), and this was the first of many times he tried to pick a fight with a much larger dog. One of those fights was with my brother's Rottweilers, and Chelsea, even though she had nothing to do with starting the fight and tried in vain to hide behind the couch, ended up being the one who had to be rushed to the emergency room.

Along with letting me know he's happy, maybe he's also trying to tell me that he gets along with the big dogs now and that my brother's Rotties (three of which went before him to the Bridge) are now his friends ...

Friday, January 18, 2008

A bad month for pets at my house ...

I have a little dutch blue lovebird that I raised from a tiny one-week old chick. I named him Sailor because my son was in the navy at the time and he became a very beloved part of my little family of pets -- one of the pack, if you will. He loved to bark with Chelsea.

Sadly, Sailor died yesterday morning. He would have been 12 in March, so he lived a wonderfully long life for a bird. He greeted every morning with enthusiastic chirps and squawks, and he was a happy little bird. In typical lovebird fashion, he had a peacock feather that was well-loved, and he'd love that feather at the most inopportune times, especially when I had dinner guests. He'd eat eggs from my plate, which I always thought was weirdly cannibalistic in a bird sort of way. He loved to hide under my hair when it was long. His favorite busy-bird activity was perforating paper -- he'd punch holes in paper towels, newspapers, but his favorite was crisp cardstock. I was his mom when he was a baby, and then his best girl when he grew older. He'd threaten the dogs when he was out and they came too close to me, and Chelsea has a scar on her nose as a result of being bitten by him.

Sailor has been cranky in an old bird kind of way for several years now and hasn't wanted to come out of his cage in a very long time. He was still warm when I found him, so I knew he hadn't been gone long. I cuddled him in a way that I haven't been able to for years, and I shed many tears over him yesterday morning. Coming on the heels of losing Doodlebug a few weeks ago, it was almost a little bit too much to bear.

My house is very silent now, and at some point I probably will get another bird to fill the void. It won't ever be able to take Sailor's place, though. Like Doodlebug, Sailor's personality, heart and soul were much, much larger than life.

I hope he and Doodlebug have found each other. And that he doesn't bite his nose ...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Doodlebug, a Tribute

This is going to be long, but I just have to write a little more about him, and then I think I can move on. I just came back from the pet store, and while I'd never buy a puppy from there, I did find myself thinking about what having one of them would be like, and how it would up-end my life and Chelsea's. And then I got really sad, bought what I needed for the fish, also bought a little clip-on bejeweled bone for Chelsea's skull collar and left.

Doodlebug came into my life about 12 years ago. I was working at a vet's office at the time, and a woman brought him in with a cocker spaniel she found in the woods. They were traveling together, and they were extremely shy and hesitant to come near her. She said it took about two weeks to gain their confidence. All of us at the vet's office seemed to remember an ad in the paper seeking two dogs that had run off, but none of us could find it when we looked; even the paper couldn't find it when we called them. Hard to believe we all dreamed up the same ad ...

Anyway, I took it all as a sign that he was supposed to come live with us. One of the vets in the office neutered him, clipped off his dew claws, and he came home to live with us (us being my ex-husband, Chelsea, our big dog Deogee, the bird, and various guinea pigs). He was supposed to be my ex's dog, but he took to me and remained my dog to the end. The vet thought he was about 5 years old, but admitted it's hard to tell with an adult dog -- he could have been a year or two younger or older. We didn't have to go through teething and chewing, and he was pretty much housetrained. He was very protective of me (the Chihuahua in him) and frequently growled at my ex when he tried to come to bed at night. He sure knew better than me in that regard ...

Doodlebug traveled with Chelsea and me on our adventure moving to Indiana (the first time I've ever lived alone), and then moving to NC to take this job two years ago. As long as he could see me, he didn't care much where we lived. His second great love was Chelsea, but she never seemed to care for him at all. She never was much for other dogs -- I think she thinks she's a short person in a fur coat. Doodlebug was content to be the Omega dog in our little pack, and it greatly upset him if I slipped up and put his collar on first, or gave him a treat before Chelsea had one or fed him first. He was happiest going last in everything. Dogs are cool that way.

While Chelsea has suffered all her life with various skin allergies and ear infections, Doodlebug was hardly ever sick. He had cortisone shots once when all three dogs were stung several times by ground hornets. He'd get the occasional case of diarrhea when he ate too many dried worms off the sidewalk. I think he had a sore throat once -- he seemed to have difficulty swallowing for a few days, but it went away with no medication. And the first time he received a bordatella vaccination, he coughed for a week. Other than that, he had no problems until this past January.

A routine geriatric blood panel revealed Doodlebug had elevated liver enzymes. The vet watched him carefully and tested his blood on a regular basis. At one point he suggested a sonogram to see if he had a tumor on his adrenal glands. He did not. The vet suspected Cushings disease, and Doodlebug's later symptoms confirmed that diagnosis. Because of his age (close to 17 years old), we opted not to treat the Cushings. The cure would have been worse than the disease. This is a disease that many old dogs get, and the medication is a chemotherapy drug that shrinks the tumor that causes the disease. We opted to let Doodlebug live as long as he was happy and pain-free. He was all of that until the day he died. The Cushings symptoms included excessive drinking and the resultant excessive pottying, but potty pads and confining him during the day took care of that. And the occasional accident in the living room was taken care of by regular carpet cleanings. I could never have put him to sleep because he pottied in the house.

Doodlebug was a typical boy. He loved playing in puddles and getting dirty. He loved sniffing bugs. When we were in the car and a truck drove by, he'd put his paws up in the window to watch it go past. He taught my big dog to howl, and although they had a great time howling when they were together, when Deogee went to live with my stepson, Doodlebug never howled again. When he barked, it sounded like he was saying "out, out!" He loved getting baths, although he did not like getting his fur trimmed -- scissors scared him and I always had to figure out ways to distract him when I wanted to trim the fur on his face. He was a favorite at the kennel here; I boarded him and Chelsea about 8 times a year. The only time he ever boarded alone was when Chelsea had ear surgery. I scheduled it to coincide with a business trip and she was at one vet's office recuperating while he boarded at his regular kennel. I don't know if he was happier to see me or her, but the day they both came home was a day of great joy for all three of us.

To sum it all up, joy is what Doodlebug brought me on a daily basis. His little eyes would light up whenever I came home, and even thought he couldn't hear what I was saying at the end, he'd still look at me as if I was making grand pronouncements that would end world hunger or save all the children. He loved me like no one else ever has, except Chelsea. He's the one who'd kiss away my tears when I cried, or laugh along with me. He was fearless -- attacking big dogs who could easily tear him apart when he thought Chelsea or I was in danger. He wasn't afraid of thunder or fireworks, and he'd sit with me on the glider to watch it storm while Chelsea cowered under the bed. He missed me like nothing else -- whether I was gone 5 days or 5 minutes, and he wasn't ashamed or embarassed to let me know how glad he was to see me again. He was worth every minute of work that having an extra dog caused, and if I had to do it all over, I'd go through it all again, including the pain of losing him at the end -- he was worth every nanosecond of it.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Doodlebug's Last Road Trip

We had a great time at Christmas. I finished a few presents, and let go of hoping I'd get the others done -- what a relief. Why in the world do we we put so much stress on ourselves? Everyone was happy with their gifts, and I was really excited about mine. I received a Nintendo DS, and I've already bought several games to play. I love this game system -- I can play it anywhere, and the games I bought are variations of old favorites.

The dogs had a great time. They were fed much and much loved. We traveled home on Saturday, spent Sunday resting, and then Doodlebug passed away on Monday morning. I'm in shock still -- it just doesn't seem real.

I woke up at 5:00 Monday morning and petted him. He wagged his tail and licked my hand. I told him we could go back to sleep since I didn't have to work. At 7:00 when I woke again, he was sitting on the floor beside the bed. I immediately got up and got dressed, but when I walked over to him I noticed that something was really wrong. He tried valiantly to get to me, but his entire back end was paralyzed. I wrapped him up and rushed him to the vet. He was gone before 8:00. I don't think he suffered -- the vet said he couldn't feel anything. At that point his heart was beating erratically and his breathing was labored. His heart stopped the instant the vet put the needle with the euthanasia drug into his vein -- he took two more breaths and then he left me. I tried to comfort him -- I hope he wasn't afraid.

Doodlebug was the best little dog. I always say that Chelsea is my heart, and she is -- but Doodlebug was the love of my life. He was always there for me, and he very seldom let me out of his sight. During the last few months, I started moving his little steps from room to room so that he could join me in the chair or on the sofa. We took the steps with us on our last trip, and he slept next to my youngest granddaughter. He wore sweaters constantly the last several weeks because he was always cold, and they were sweaters I knit for him. He seemed to love them, and he looked very dapper in them. He didn't make much noise and didn't take up much room, but there's a very large presence missing in my house. His heart and soul were larger than life, and his passing leaves us empty and sad. I took Chelsea with us to the vet -- partly to hold me together on the drive there and back (I knew in my heart I'd be leaving him there), but mostly so that she had the chance to see him and smell him and know that he was gone, which she did. She grieved very hard for a few days, and is just now starting to eat and drink normally and be interested in going outside again. She's taken to lying in his spot on the bed and under my desk. I haven't been able to fold down his crate and put it away, and I found her inside it the other day, sleeping in his bed. He was always underfoot in the kitchen, hoping for crumbs to fall from the counter. I find myself still looking down before I move -- still trying to avoid stepping on him.

They say rescued dogs are grateful every day for the person who took them in. I was so thankful every day to have him in my live. I'll miss him for a very, very long time.